Diane Geppi-Aikens, the head coach of the Loyola College women's lacrosse team who died Sunday after a public battle with brain cancer, expected this year's season spent coaching from a wheelchair to be her last and allowed a documentary film crew to follow her struggles and triumphs.
Tonight at 8, College Sports Television captures the inspirational story of Geppi-Aikens in its first original production, Season of Hope: The Diane Geppi-Aikens Story. A half-hour documentary, Season of Hope follows the Greyhound women's lacrosse team over the 2003 season, from Geppi-Aikens' revelation of her condition to the team's loss to Princeton University in the NCAA Division I semifinals. The documentary also looks at Geppi-Aikens' family life and the reactions of her four children and father.
Beginning on the team's bus ride to the NCAA tournament and ending with Geppi-Aikens' attending her son's graduation, Season of Hope examines the effects of terminal illness on a team's morale from both the coaching and playing side of the game, with interviews with Geppi-Aikens' family and Loyola players and coaching staff.
With her face and body swollen from the steroids used as part of her treatment and the left side of her body paralyzed, Geppi-Aikens found humor invaluable. She turned one incident in which she fell in her house and ended up drinking water out of a cat's dish (when she grew thirsty from struggling to move) into inspiration for her team, in the form of the word "meow" screened onto jerseys.
"I work, I enjoy my children and hopefully I get to be a positive role model for cancer patients," Geppi-Aikens says in the documentary. "And I look to try to be positive and do the living part instead of looking at the end. But I'm realistic about the end."
College Sports Television is available on DirecTV on Channel 610. Encore presentations of Season of Hope will be shown at 8:30 p.m., 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. today. Season of Hope will also air on CN8: the Comcast Network on July 11 at 11 p.m.